ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (PRIVATE NOTES): Hùndùn 混沌 chaos, inchoate state


Well, I guess one doesn’t need extraordinary abilities to memorize ‘hùndùn—chaos’ but it would be definitely too simple to make a life interesting. The sinologists say: “The term hundun, commonly translated as “chaos,” has different uses and meanings both within and outside of Taoism: it can denote a mythical being, function as a descriptive word, or refer to a stage of the cosmogonic  process,” and after that introduction Isabelle Robinet tells the whole story of ‘hùndùn 混沌 chaos’ in the Encyclopedia of Taoism entry, Routledge, 2008. 

But this article, and books behind it, and other entries in the other encyclopedias are too difficult to follow unless you are the scientists, the sinologist, the taoist, or simply one with the extraordinary abilities 🙂

I. Robinet continues: “Semantically, the term hundun is related to several expressions, hardly translatable into Western languages, that indicate the void or a barren and primal immensity—for  instance, hunlun 混淪, hundong 混洞, kongdong 空洞, menghong 蒙洪, or hongyuan 洪元. It is also akin to the expression “something confused and yet complete” (huncheng 混成) found in Daode jing 25, which denotes the state prior to the formation of the world where nothing is perceptible, but which nevertheless contains a cosmic seed. Similarly, the state of hundun is likened to the egg; in this usage, the term alludes to a complete world round and closed in itself, which is a receptacle like a cavern (dong 洞) or a gourd (hu 壺 or hulu 壺盧).”

See, if you are a professional translator yet, it doesn’t help too much to catch the gist of elusive hùndùn (by the way, in one version it has six legs and four wings).

Last quotation, really last: “Hundun is the elixir, the number 1, and the Original Pneuma (yuanqi). As the Center, it is a synonym of the tripod and furnace (dinglu) and of the Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai). Thus, hundun is the origin, the center, and the end.”

I liked it the best: “hùndùn (混沌is the origin, the center, and the end.” It sounds comfortable enough to the modern man with a taste for life and a sense of humor.